“Matsushima ah! A-ah, Matsushima, ah! Matsushima, ah!”
These were the awe-inspired words of the seventeenth century poet Matsuo Bashō upon seeing the natural beauty of Matsushima. Matsuo Bashō could not find adequate words to properly describe what he saw. Matsushima Bay (40 minutes by local train from Sendai Station) has been celebrated as one of the three most beautiful locations in Japan alongside Miyajima near Hiroshima and Amanohashidate sand bar near Kyoto. Matsushima Bay, centrally located in Miyagi Prefecture, is home to over 250 pine tree covered islands that dot this coastal inlet.
To enjoy the bay at water level you can take a boat tour of the islands through a number of leisure cruise companies in Matsushima. This is a highly recommended excursion while you are visiting Matsushima. There are a number of different types of cruises offered in Matsushima. One option is to arrive in Matsushima via a cruise from nearby Shiogama. However, I would like to introduce the easiest option visitors can take advantage of.
The Matsushima Shimameguri Kankosen Kigyo Kumiai boat tour starts and ends in Matsushima and will take you on a fifty minute tour of the islands. The cruise is a pleasant boat right around the bay with audio commentary (usually both in Japanese and English). During the tour you will be able to see the most popular islands in the bay, see live oyster pot farms, as well as have an opportunity to feed seagulls who will chase your boat as you circumnavigate the bay. Seagull food can be purchased on the boat for just ¥100 and for an additional fee you can get a top side seat to get great views of the bay.
There are other boat tour options available, some that will take you to Shiogama Bay and back to Matsushima. There are cruises that will take you to Sagaki and back to Matsushima. Finally, there are longer cruises that will take you out to the more remote islands of Oku-Matsushima where you can view unspoiled natural beauty far removed from the reaches of the city. Please note that the Oku-Matsushima cruise is often only provided as a charter service.
Boat cruises in and out of Matsushima will range from ¥1400 to ¥2800 depending on type of cruise and what class of seat you wish to get (1st class seats costing more but provide better views). The length of cruises are generally 30 to 50 minutes depending on type of cruise and leave hourly.
Cruise hours of operation
Matsushima cruises operate from 10:00am to 3:00pm daily. Special accommodations can be made for times not on the hourly schedule. Special night time and sunset cruises are also available depending on the weather and season. Otherwise cruises are available year round.
How to find cruises out of Matsushima
From Matsushimakaigan station, turn right out of the station where you will find Route 45, turn left onto Route 45 and follow this street for approximately 5 minutes until you see the docks on your right hand side. Tickets for cruises can be purchases at the Matsushima Tourism Center located near the dock.